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Memorial Day: Covering an outpour of grief 

For my final assignments as an intern at The Flint Journal, I covered various memorial day services, including one at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. I found it fitting that this internship would come to an end with me covering an outpour of grief. It’s something that, in addition to other things, I feel this internship has well prepared me for.  

My grandfather, a WWII veteran passed away while I was interning here. I found out while working on a story. I cried hard that day right in front of my subject. His memory kept crossing my mind with every service I attended. 

Approaching these individuals, I had a heavy heart but I knew that making these photos would only capture the feelings I had felt these past weeks myself. Empathy has always been a key point for my boss, Jake May, who covers a lot of spot news here in Flint. Anytime I’ve been nervous about taking photos in dire situations, he’s instilled me with purpose. This weekend was all encompassing of that principle. 

Every person I approached was understanding and kind to me. Not a single person questioned why I was taking these photographs. That spoke volumes to me and I’ll be forever grateful to them. After leaving the cemetery, I drove home in silence. 

Captions: 

1. Deandra Christiansen, 16, sobs at the gravestone of her late father, Eric Christiansen, following a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. Eric served in the National Guard until his passing. “Today, brings back lots of memories of being with him. I was very proud. Not having him here for all the special things (is the most difficult part),” Deandra said

2. Beverley Shea, of Sterling Heights, lays flowers at the gravestone of her late husband with sister Xenia Martin and her sister’s husband Jim Martin following a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich.

3. Flags with hand written notes decorate the gravestone of Oliver Stevens, a bronze star recipient and D-Day veteran, following a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. The Stevens family also signed the outside of Oliver’s coffin at his funeral.

4. Marion Portuesi is consoled by her husband David Portuesi while visiting the grave of her parents before a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. Portuesi’s father, who passed away in 2010, served in World War II and the Korean war while her mother stayed on the home front. 

5. Lucille LeMarbe, 90, of Waterford, listens to remarks during a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. “My Husband is buried here in the cemetery and I will also be buried here,” LeMarbe said. 

6. Bill Gramer, of Flint, bears the American flag during a Memorial Day service at the Flint McFarlan Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Flint. 

7. Amber Hackett, 79, visits the gravestone of her late husband, Dennis Hackett Jr., with her family following a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. Dennis passed away on October 20, 2014 and it was the first time Amber had seen the headstone in person. 

8. Patrice Henderson, 50, of Detroit, sobs at the gravestone of her late father, John Henderson, following a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. Henderson’s anchor and rope tattoo is in his honor. 

9.  Flowers rest on a gravestone following a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. 

10. Anthony Kucharski, 33, of Royal Oak, kisses the grave stone of his father, Ronald W. Kucharski, a Vietnam veteran who passed away on October 5, 2013, following a Memorial Day service at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Mich. Anthony had been sitting whispering to the headstone “I love you daddy.”

Unidentified African American Civil War Soldier in Union Uniform With Wife And Two Daughters

Photograph showing soldier in uniform, wife in dress and hat, and two daughters wearing matching coats and hats. In May 1863, U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued General Order No. 143 creating the Bureau of U. S. Colored Troops. This image was found in Cecil County, Maryland, making it likely that this soldier belonged to one of the seven U.S.C.T. regiments raised in Maryland. 

The history of the United States Colored Troops remains a fascinating topic as their contributions in the Civil War marked a turning point within the country. Without their service the Union may have faltered in their movement against the Confederacy. http://slavery.msa.maryland.gov/html/casestudies/usct_overview.html

(Source: Matthew R. Gross and Elizabeth T. Lewin, 2010) Colorized by Stacey Palmer@ TheCivilWarParlor@Tumblr.com

  • Forms part of: Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress).

What is the real history of Memorial Day?

Most official histories of Memorial Day credit its founding to a white former Union Army Major General John A. Logan. However, it’s not the full story. It turns out that Logan was reputedly inspired by a local tribute to the fallen dead and to the gift of freedom organized by the formerly enslaved black community of Charleston, South Carolina, in May 1865. In the West African tradition from which Charleston’s Gullah people came, honorable warriors deserved sacred burial, and the dead were seen as part of a cycle of souls entering and leaving the world. 

Learn more here.